My husband and I often times enjoy spending the day driving around town discovering new and exciting places. This is exactly how we came across the Orlando Wetlands Park. One Saturday morning on our way to Fort Christmas we decided to take a detour when we saw a small sign along Ft. Christmas Rd in East Orlando. Since then, the Orlando Wetlands Park has become my go-to place when I want to get away, when I want to have some peace and quite, and when I want to spend the morning photographing some of Florida's wildlife. While the park from the outside looks like a "natural" ecosystem, complete with trails, marsh and gators you are actually standing in the middle of a "man-made" wetlands. This land use to be a rural dairy farm in the 1940's, the City of Orlando purchased 1650 acres in 1986 for just over 5 million dollars with the hopes of not only creating a beautiful wetlands but also providing a necessary source for water management, and with that...1220 acres of the "man-made" wetlands treatment system was completed in 1987.
Imagine a sophisticated system of carrying water 17 miles from a treatment plant in East Orlando far into the rural lands of Christmas, FL. Once the water reaches the Orlando Wetlands Park, it is on a 40-day journey though 17 cells and 3 distinct wetland areas where the water meanders through the wetlands. Each wetland area is specifically planted and created to remove residual amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Each eclogoical community; the deep marsh, the mixed marsh and the wet prairie were plated with 2.3 million aquatic plants, including 200,000 trees to create a man-made wetland perfect for treating water naturally. The Orlando Wetlands Park receives about 14 millions of reclaimed water per day. The water is rich in nutrients and that is why you will find an abundance of wildlife in the area.
When you first enter the park, you will find the Wetlands Park Education Center. This center is open Fridays & Saturdays from 9am - 3pm. Be sure to visit the center to explore live animals, informational displays and hands-on activities for all ages. It is here that you can also talk with a few of the volunteers on hand about the park. They are always super friendly and eager to share their love of the park.
One of the easiest ways to see the park is taking a free tram tour. Friends of the Orlando Wetlands are available for tram tours on Fridays & Saturdays starting at 9am. Tours are first come first serve and are the perfect way to get around. I have been on the tram tour several times and the volunteers are wonderful, funny and very educational. You can tell this is something they love and they do it willingly.
My preferred method of getting around the park is simple...on foot. Be sure to grab a map of the park and head out for a hike. Before you start your hike be sure to visit the pavilion where you will find displays on some of the wildlife you may see while on your hike, but most imprortantly the visitors check in. Each visitor is expected to check-in. When you are done with your hike, head back to the pavilion. This is the perfect place to relax, picnic or just watch the kids run around.
While this entire park is FREE, please do not leave this park without making a donation to the park, and better yet...look into volunteering. Click the link below, to find out more information on volunteer opportunities.
#1 Bug spray
#4 Hat or Visor
#10 Your sense of adventure!
Have Fun Hiking The Orlando Wetlands!
#1 This is a natural area, so you will see wildlife including gators! Be sure to always be aware of your surroundings.
#2 Stay on the designated pathways and stay away from the banks. Many times you will see the gators sun bathing on the banks.
#3 The pathways and trails are a mix of packed dirt & sand, this may be hard to navigate with strollers or bikes for small children.
#4 Best time of day to visit is morning or sunrise, that is when birds and wildlife are most active.
#5 This park is NOT pet friendly.
- Breeding season for alligators is